Thursday, November 17, 2016
SOUTHFIELD, MI – On September 26, 2016, Sommers Schwartz senior shareholder Kenneth Watkins obtained a $2,570,795 verdict in Ingham County Circuit Court after persuading the judge that a general surgeon’s delayed diagnosis and treatment of a flesh-eating infection constituted medical malpractice.
According to court documents, the plaintiff was admitted to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing on August 30, 2010, after presenting to the emergency room with complaints of pain and swelling in her right arm. Over the next two days, she was seen by the defendant general surgeon and an infectious disease specialist, both of whom diagnosed cellulitis and prescribed antibiotics. An orthopedic specialist was called, but because he was unable to see the patient, he recommended a consultation with another general surgeon who examined the patient on September 2nd. That surgeon rendered a clinical impression of necrotizing fasciitis – a serious bacterial skin infection that spreads quickly and kills the body’s soft tissue – and recommended immediate surgery.
The plaintiff alleged that the defendant surgeon she saw initially failed to appreciate the severity of the infection and misdiagnosed the flesh-eating bacteria. Because of the delay in treating the potentially life-threatening infection, her condition worsened, necessitating extensive surgery to remove damaged and infected tissue and causing disfigurement and lack of mobility that will last the rest of her life.
“It’s inconceivable that the defendant didn’t seriously consider necrotizing fasciitis as a differential diagnosis,” said Mr. Watkins. “My client’s complaints in the ER were certainly suggestive of it and apparently, the judge agreed that his mistakes were inexcusable.”
Before trial, the parties presented their argument to a case evaluation panel that recommended an award of $900,000 in damages for the plaintiff. The defendants partially rejected the panel’s recommendation, and because the plaintiff prevailed at trial, the defendant may be obligated to pay at least a portion of the plaintiff’s attorney fees and court costs.
“This victory particularly confirming for our clients,” added Mr. Watkins. “So often, defendants complain about how jurors can be misled by skilled trial performances. This case was decided by an experienced trial judge.”